Wasps feel Thomas sting

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The Independent Online

Arwel Thomas was the clarion call resounding around Swansea after the Welsh club pulverised the much-fancied Wasps in a spectacular Heineken Cup match at St Helens yesterday with the mercurial fly-half contributing 29 points, including three dropped goals. Not far behind was another Welsh discard, Matthew Robinson, who flew over for four spectacular tries, a timely reminder perhaps for the watching Graham Henry.

Arwel Thomas was the clarion call resounding around Swansea after the Welsh club pulverised the much-fancied Wasps in a spectacular Heineken Cup match at St Helens yesterday with the mercurial fly-half contributing 29 points, including three dropped goals. Not far behind was another Welsh discard, Matthew Robinson, who flew over for four spectacular tries, a timely reminder perhaps for the watching Graham Henry.

Swansea have always been imperious, scintillating and punishing when at their very best. Their best has rarely surfaced this season although it now appears they have been saving their best for Europe.

Wasps have been equally inconsistent, but following their 50-point hammering of Northampton last weekend, they fancied their visit to Swansea. They won't fancy the return match on this performance as Swansea destroyed them at the set pieces, shunting them off their own scrum and fiercely contesting many of their line-outs.

The battle of the back rows was of gargantuan proportions and worth the entrance fee itself, with home flankers Colin Charvis and Geraint Lewis winning on points against Lawrence Dallaglio and Co. Wasps spilled the opening kick-off, and an infringement at the resultant scrum left Thomas to slot the 30m penalty. The game came to life in the 10th minute when Thomas sliced through the Wasps blind-side defence to set up Charvis, who was only stopped by a superb cover tackle by fly-half Alex King. Wasps killed the ball and Thomas doubled his side's advantage.

Wasps started finding holes in the home defence, as King held the ball and timed his distribution expertly, releasing his centres and off-loading to Joe Worsley and Trevor Leota. The first try came after 15 minutes as Mark Denny and then Rob Henderson and Martyn Wood created enough space for Worsley to touch down for a try which Kenny Logan converted.

Swansea's response was immediate, with again Thomas the catalyst. The prop Darren Morris was stopped a yard short after a charging run, and winger Robinson stepped around Simon Shaw and scored at the posts. Thomas converted and added a penalty which Logan matched for the London side. On the half hour and deep from defence, the home No 8 Hywel Jenkins, drove from a midfield scrum committing the Wasps' back row. Scrum-half Rhodri Jones switched play and Mark Taylor's arcing run supported by Scott Gibbs, gave Robinson a second touchdown. A short while later Robinson was again in the action dotting down after being sent clear by Taylor to claim a hat-trick of tries in the first half.

With the hysteria still resonating around St Helens, Robinson amazingly claimed his fourth try two minutes after the restart following perfect sleights of hand from the flanker Lewis. Thomas converted. Wasps looked predictable and failed to capitalise when the Swansea lock Tyrone Maullin was sin-binned, and this was made more frustrating when Thomas slotted a couple of drop goals.

Josh Lewsey and Worsley again crossed for the Wasps with Gibbs sealing a fine performance with a last minute corner try, converted, yes, you've got it, by Arwel Thomas.

Swansea: K Morgan (D Weatherly, 59); S Payne, M Taylor, S Gibbs (capt), M Robinson; A Thomas, R Jones (S Martens, 73), D Morris, G Jenkins, B Evans, T Maullin, A Moore (J Griffiths, 73), G Lewis, H Jenkins, C Charvis (D Thomas, 75).

Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, M Denny, R Henderson, K Logan; A King, M Wood; D Molloy (A Le Chevalier, 25), T Leota, W Green, A Reed (J Beardshaw, 71), S Shaw, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley,

Referee: J Dumé (France)

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